Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Critical Thinking at the Cook Library Center

Through a variety of tried and true methods such as market research and psychographics, media outlets deliberately target their advertising to certain audiences. Although most adults are able to consume media with this in mind, it is typically a far different story for youth. In fact, child psychologist James McNeal has established that children are by far the most impressionable marketable age due to their inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

That is why one Thursday a month GAAH welcomes Jeff Smith, founder of Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID), to speak to teens in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood about the important distinction between reality and what is portrayed in the wide array of media that is consumed on a daily basis.

Covering topics ranging from racism to brand loyalty to beauty standards, these workshops challenge the viewpoints of the teens who choose to attend. The 90-minute sessions are packed with information and live-viewing sessions of product placement, advertisement critiques, and more. And although the concepts are new to the students, this is an exciting topic to them and they have been catching on quickly, learning how to consume media with a more critical eye.

During one workshop, after discussing synergistic product placement within Universal Studios’ ET, the class proceeded to view similar instances in The Grinch, Men in Black, Transformers, and the Hunger Games. They examined placements from products such as Phillip Morris, Hostess, Chevy, Target, Budweiser, Beats by Dre, and more. There were discussions of physical placement of the ads on billboards and blimps, on sports fields, at certain heights in grocery stores, on buildings, and even on gas pumps. Several students even came up with examples of their own.  

At the December workshop Jeff recorded some of the teens summarizing what they had learned so far. He says that next semester they will be focusing on creating their own media rather than analyzing the media that already exists. All of the students in attendance said they are planning to return.

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